Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina was actually not on the list of countries on our tour to Istanbul. Initially we wanted to go to Serbia and from there to North Macedonia. There were two reasons why we decided to cycle BiH – first: we wanted to go to Albania (which we also decided just recently) and Serbia is not really on the way. Second: a lot of people in Slovenia (locals) who spend their holiday in both countries told us that BiH was much more beautiful.
We just knew Bosnia and Herzegovina from the news. Iris was 14 when the Yugoslavian War started and back then the media was full of pictures of a destroyed country.
A lot of Bosnians fled to Germany (and Austria and Switzerland) and a lot of them settled there forever – some came back to BiH after the war ended.
So, of the first things we learned about the country is that more people speak Germany than English. When we arrived in Bosnia, in the Republic Sparska, we did not even make it 5km into the country. While asking in a restaurant behind the border, if we can exchange Euro to KM we immediately have been invited for a beer (35 degrees that day) and the restaurant owner offered us to stay on his property behind the restaurant. That day we have been invited from a lot more guests of the restaurant to drink with them and it should not have been the last time locals invited us to drink with them.
Apart from the hospitality of the people in this country, the beauty of the sceneries and the amazing food also hit us by surprise. Even though we had horrible weather for more than a week, and the road conditions here are not ideal (basically you can choose between steep and muddy roads in the mountains or busy roads with crazy truck drivers who definitively have an ongoing bet who kills the most cyclists) we loved every minute on the bike. We had some unplanned stops because some days it was just impossible to cycle and every time, we went back on the bikes we were excited like kids in a toy store.
One of the most fascinating experiences we had was to pitch our tent next to the house of Imam Salih and his wife (right next to a mosque). Not only was this “campsite” very beautiful – the shade of the mosque as well as the call of the muezzin made the atmosphere of the place peaceful. After we set up our tent Salih invited us for a lovely Bosnian dinner.
He also picked plums, apples and figs from the trees in his garden for us to eat. We got this stopover arranged by Sejfuddin Dizdarevic, who happens to be the translator of a book about the massacre which happened in Srebrenica in July 1992. He fled the war when he was just 15 and found refuge in Germany.
If you want to educate yourself about the events in Srebrenica and the Yugoslavian War in general, we recommend this book, which is available here: https://www.amazon.de/dp/3754311050/). The traces of the war are still visible all over the country – even though there is a lot of modern and new houses, there is still bullet holes in the old buildings and mines below the ground which are killing people until today!
Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the most beautiful countries we ever travelled to (in general, not only by bike). We are a bit sad to leave for Montenegro, but we are also looking forward to new adventures.